Monday, March 25, 2019

25th March,2019 Daily Global Regional Local Rice E-Newsletter

Chinese imports 'driving fishermen to despair'
Source: BBC
As the frozen fish defrosts under the hot Kenyan sun, fishmonger Mechak Juma prefers not to tell his customers that it has come all the way from China.
We are at the largest fish market in the city of Kisumu, on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake.
A scene of hustle and bustle, business is booming for the traders, but very little of that money now goes to the local fishermen.
As fish stocks in Lake Victoria have plunged over the past two decades, and prices have risen sharply as a result, cheap farmed Chinese imports are increasingly filling the gap.
"People don't want to buy Chinese fish because they don't trust the [farmed] production process, but we don't have much of a choice," says Mechak, standing next to a big wicker basket of whole Chinese tilapia fish.
The trampled cardboard boxes used to ship the frozen fish 8,000 km (5,000 miles) are stashed away in a corner, and the fish itself is more than two years old.
It will expire in less than a month, according to the dates on the boxes.

Chinese fish farms are able to operate very cheaply by using rice industry waste as food
"People prefer to buy local fish, but we earn nothing on local fish now," says the 29-year-old.
"Only by selling Chinese fish am I able to earn enough money to feed my family."
Fish catches from Lake Victoria have plummeted by more than half over the past two decades, due to overfishing and pollution. Over the same period Kenya's population has doubled.
Vast stretches of water hyacinths, an invasive weed, along the shorelines, have also caused severe problems for the country's fishermen. The thick, interwoven carpet of the plants means that smaller boats can struggle to get out to clear water.
Kenya's Lake Victoria fishermen now bring in an estimated 140,000 tonnes of fish per year, little more than a quarter of the 500,000 required.

Kenya's fisherman sometimes cannot sell all their catch
Chinese companies and their Kenyan partners seized the opportunity, and are now said to be exporting more than $17m (£13m) of fish to Kenya annually, more than double the amount three years ago.
It was an easy gap for the Chinese to fill, because the freshwater fish that they farm on a vast scale - tilapia - is from the same broad species that Kenyans mostly catch in Lake Victoria. So for Kenyan consumers the fish look and taste very similar.
The Chinese fish is just considerably cheaper, selling for as little as $1.70 per kg, compared with about $5 per kg for the local catch.
For Kenyan fisherman Frederike Otieno, it is a hopeless situation.
"While we spend many nights on the lake and lose a lot of money on fuel, we have to compete with this cheap Chinese farmed fish that floods the market," says the 36-year-old.

Kenya's fishmongers are often reluctant to admit that their fish is Chinese
The father of three says that sometimes he cannot sell all his catch.
A fisherman for 10 years, he says he used to earn about 3,000 Kenyan shillings ($30; £23) per day, but that has now fallen to little more than 400 shillings.
In November last year, the Kenyan government moved to try to protect the Lake Victoria fishing industry by imposing an import ban on foreign tilapia.
But the restrictions were lifted in January after China's ambassador to Kenya, Li Xuhang, referred to the ban as a "trade war".
It was also reported that China had threatened to freeze funding for a new railway line connecting Kenya with Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
However, the official explanation from Kenya's Department for Fisheries for the U-turn was that "a huge shipment of [Chinese] fish was held up at the port of Mombasa, negatively impacting local supplies".

Not all the frozen Chinese fish on sale in Kenya is within its best before date
What Kenyan authorities are continuing with is efforts to improve fish stocks in the lake, for example, by arresting fishermen who fish too close to the breeding areas near the shores to save on time and fuel. But this deterrent continues to increase prices in the short term, as fisherman have to travel further out into the lake.
The biggest importer of Chinese fish in Kenya is a company called East African Sea Food. Its director, John Musafari, says that while the farmed Chinese tilapia is high quality, the low prices are possible because the fish is fed on rice bran, which is cheap and plentiful.
This bran is the hard outer layer of each rice grain, which is removed in China before the rice is sold to consumers.
Mr Musafari adds that fish farming has not taken off in Kenya because fish feed "is extremely expensive" in the country, due to it currently being made from maize, which is also the country's staple food.
He wants to see more investment in the development of cheaper fish feed in Kenya. "That could really boost the country's aquaculture," he says.

Some say that the long-term future of fishing on Lake Victoria is in doubt
Others in Kenya are very happy with the growing reliance on Chinese fish imports, such as Simon who helps to transport the boxes across the country.
"Thanks to this Chinese tilapia, poor people can now eat nutritious protein-rich fish as well," says Simon, who declined to give his full name. He now makes $300 a day, which for many Kenyans is more than their monthly salary.
Yet for Edward Oremo, a Kenyan fisheries official, it will ultimately mean the end of commercial fishing on Lake Victoria.
"As long as Chinese imports continue... fishermen will be driven to despair, and Lake Victoria will be empty [of fishing boats] in less than 50 years."

Liberia to Reduce Rice Imports by 7%

Description: (Flash back) Liberian women farmers harvesting rice..
To improve rice production as one means of promoting food security in Liberia remains a major concern by every successive government since the end of the civil war (1989-2003).  Rice, the country’s staple food and a commodity of political proportion, has been imported on a massive scale for many decades. Statistics from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning shows that Liberia spends close to US$200 million annually to import the commodity to ensure food security for the citizens.
However, the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Mogana S. Flomo believes that, with small steps, the country can embark on a path to self-sufficiency in rice. In a recent engagement with partners, the Minister disclosed that Liberia is expected to reduce rice imports by seven percent this year.
Flomo made the disclosure to stakeholders at a recent one-day meeting hosted in Monrovia with the aim to brainstorm on how to improve agricultural policy for resource allocation. He said the Government of President George Weah is targeting a five-year plan to significantly increase food production.
In the event of meeting the five-year plan, Dr. Flomo said government will give priority to “Communal Farming” to enhance food production across the country, but from a different approach.
Communal farming is a farming strategy where community members are encouraged to participate in a particular agricultural project for the common good of the community people. In Liberia, the practice is being implemented by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. However, such farming strategy has not yielded the desire results over the years due to lack of funding, the Daily Observer has learnt.
Description: of Agriculture, Dr. Mogana S. Flomo.
Although Minister Flomo acknowledged challenges associated with the communal farming system, he assured the public of his ministry’s preparedness to address those challenges with a different approach.
“With assistance from international partners, we will mobilize farming communities to engage into variety of crops production as the surest way to promote Communal Farming activities,” he said.
“This implies that we will have to work harder to increase rice production,” he added.
According to Flomo, the government is committed to make Liberia food secure as evidenced by the President Weah’s willingness to support the agricultural sector.
“The President has promised the World that his Government will improve the agriculture sector, because this is what majority of the citizens depend on for their livelihoods,” he said.
The Minister also stressed the need for rural communities to get fully involved as international partners are willing to support the country improves food production.

Food insecurity could increase in Mozambique this year

The challenge will be on the infrastructure side in the ports.
Wandile Sihlobo  /  25 March 2019 07:42    
Description: Devastation to place increased pressure in Southern Africa maize supplies this year. Picture: Shutterstock
Devastation to place increased pressure in Southern Africa maize supplies this year. Picture: Shutterstock
The situation in Mozambique is devastating. Tropical Cyclone Idai, which hit the coastline of Mozambique on March 14, has caused a heavy loss of life and affected more than 600 000 people, according to some estimates – the number will most likely rise after on-ground assessments. Amid continuing efforts to find survivors, one of the key concerns over the coming days will be food insecurity, due damage to both crop fields and port infrastructure.
Mozambique is generally a net importer of major grains, such as maize, wheat and rice. In a normal season, the country imports roughly 100 000 tonnes of maize, 700 000 tonnes of rice, and 680 000 tonnes of wheat to fulfil its domestic needs. Maize imports are largely transported on land as these are mainly from South Africa and Zambia. Meanwhile, wheat and rice imports originate from Europe, and Asia through Beira Port, which is the area that has been affected by the Cyclone.
Given that domestic production of rice and wheat is relatively negligible, the devastation from the cyclone will not lead to meaningful changes in import requirements of these commodities from the aforementioned volumes. However, the challenge will be on the infrastructure side in the ports.
In the case of maize, the imports will most likely increase from an average volume of 100 000 tonnes per the calendar year. At this point, I don’t know how much will be required. I will have a better sense as soon as we are aware of the scale of damage in the maize fields. This all means that there will be increased pressure in Southern Africa maize supplies this year. After all, even the key maize producing countries in the region – South Africa and Zambia – are expecting a double-digit decline in harvest in 2018/19 season. It is a tough year ahead – all due to mother nature!
Wandile Sihlobo is chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa (Agbiz). 
This article was originally published on Sihlobo’s blog here.

Price Of Rice Remains High Despite Sustained Bumper Harvest

Lagos – There is no denying the fact that President Mohammed Buhari’s led administration has on several occasions bragged that its biggest achievement is reduction of Nigeria’s dependence on foreign rice.
Statements buttressing the foregoing view abound in the media. For instance, sometime in 2018, President Buhari told the British Prime Minister; Theresa May on April 16, 2018 that: “We have cut rice importation by about 90%, made lots of savings of foreign exchange, and generated employment. People had rushed to the cities to get oil money, at the expense of farming. But luckily, they are now going back to the farms. Even professionals are going back to the land. We are making steady progress on the road to food security.”
On the strength of the achievements recorded in agriculture in the country since the ruling government came to power in 2015, the minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh seemed not to be surprised of the president’s recent victory at the poll.
In a congratulatory message issued by Mr. Mohammed Nakorji, Director of information in the ministry of Agriculture on March 1, 2019, he said the minister has joined other well-meaning Nigerians to congratulate the President on his victory at the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Ogbeh noted that his victory at the poll did not come as a surprise especially with the giant strides recorded in the nation’s Agriculture sector, particularly the rice revolution among others.
He said with the re-election of Mr. President for a second term that the Agriculture Ministry, which he oversees, would consolidate on its achievements and move the nation’s Agriculture sector to the next level.
In the same vein of echoing the president’s achievement in ensuring that Nigeria enjoys a sustainable production and distribution of rice, the minister of information, Lai Mohammed almost a year ago, precisely in the first week of April, 2018, said President Buhari’s rice revolution across the country was enough for him to be re-elected in 2019 presidential election.
Mohammed, who made the statement in Lagos, said about 60 per cent of rice eaten in Nigeria was produced locally.
Ostensibly to further echo how far Nigeria has gone in the growing and production of rice under the present administration, Aminu Goronyo, the President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) recently disclosed that Nigeria has two rice farming season, in each season according him, 4 million tons of rice is produced.
  His disclosure, no doubt, was aimed at correcting the erroneous report which stated that Nigeria produces 4 million tons of rice.
To this end, RIFAN set the record straight as he clarified that Nigeria being the largest producer of rice in Africa is producing 8 million tons of rice annually, as its produces 4 million tons each in two seasons.
Against the foregoing backdrop that no doubt indicates that rice in Nigeria now grow and produces rice in surplus, not a few consumers expect the law of supply and demand to come into play by bringing the price of rice; whether local or foreign, down, perhaps to an affordable level.
For the sake of clarity, the principle and supply and demand is an economic theory that explains how available commodities or services in the market and the frequency of consumer demands for them affect influence prices.
It’s a fundamental economic principle that when supply exceeds demand for a good or service, prices fall. When demand exceeds supply, prices tend to rise.
One may not be wrong to say that the understanding of the influence of supply and demand might have spurred the rice farmers’ boss, Goronyo, in the last quarter of 2017 when he disclosed that a 50kg bag of rice would be sold at the rate of N6000.
Goronyo made this known during a meeting which rice farmers, processors and the minister of agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, had then at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja.
According to him, the anticipated crash in prices, as at then, was due to wet season bumper harvest by farmers.
He then added that operators have resolved to reduce the price of a 50kg bag of rice, which was then priced within the price range of N15,000 to N17,000, to N13,000.
“This is just the beginning. The actual price will still come down because we are expecting a bumper harvest this year; we have sat down with the millers and agreed that we will work together for the interest of Nigerians,” he said.
“At one time, people were buying a bag of rice at the cost of N18,000 but they are now buying it at between N13,000 and N15,000. The price is coming down.
“In the next few months, God willing, the price of a 50kg bag will come down to N6,000. It is achievable, it will be a reality,’’ he said.
Mohammed Abubakar, Chairman, Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), said the associations had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to slash the prices of both paddy and processed rice.
“We have agreed at N110,000 per tonne of paddy. In the market, rice will come around N13,000 to N13,500 per 50kg bag,” he said.
“Before now, we were buying paddy at N140,000 and N150,000 per tonne and we are selling our products at N16,000 per 50kg bag.
“If this MoU works, we hope to sell a bag of rice at N13, 000 to N13, 500, depending on where you are in the country.”
In a similar vein, Kano-based Amarava Rice Mill early this year disclosed its plans to record 500 tonnes of daily production by June, just as it hits 250 tonnes to boost local self-sufficiency in rice. Mr Subhash Chand, the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, made this known to newsmen in Abuja.
It would be recalled that the multimillion Naira state-of-the-art rice mill, owned by an Indian national, was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kano in December 2018.
Despite all the assurances and promises, consumers are unanimous that local rice is not as ubiquitous in markets as often claimed, while imported or smuggled brands are costly.
Mrs. Lydia Onwubuya, said: “When the present administration started its rice revolution that many thought by now the staple food would have flooded the market and force price to come down to affordable level.”
DAILY INDEPENDENT survey reveals that the price of rice in different sizes still remains high. For instance, the most common brands that cut across Caprice, Stallion, Mama Gold and Rice Master have various prices that range from N14,000 to N17,000 per 50kg bag, N7,000 to N9,000 per 25kg bag, N2,500 to N3,000 per 10kg bag and N1200 to N1600 per 5kg bag.
The most interesting aspect is that the prices vary from one market to the other across the country, and in most cases leaving a wide difference when compared.
The most interesting aspect is that the prices vary from one market to the other across the country, and in most cases leave wide difference in comparison when subjected to comparison.
Take for instance at Bodija market in Ibadan where brand of rice that is not particularly branded and packaged in 50kg bag sells for N13,500 while rice of the same quantity sells for N14,850 at Dawanau market in Kano.
In the same vein, 50kg bag of rice costs N16,600 in Gombe market while a bag of  rice weighing the same kilogram costs N20,300 at Igbudu market in Warri. At Mangu market in Plateau, rice of the same quantity cost N18,000.
Still in the same nexus, it cost N14,300 at Mile 12 market in Lagos and N19,000 at Nkwo Nnewi market in Anambra state.
Mr. Ignatius Anaba said: “Government should ensure it intensify efforts in producing surplus local rice for Nigerians so as to crash the price of foreign rice, and at the same discourage smuggling.”

Gut Instinct: How Diets Shape the Unique Composition of Indian Guts

Researchers from IISER Bhopal decided to carry out an in-depth study of the diversity of Indian gut flora by comparing and contrasting the microbiome of populations from two parts of the country with very disparate diets.
Description: Gut Instinct: How Diets Shape the Unique Composition of Indian Guts
Gut bacteria. Image for representational purpose. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Description: P. Surat
In a recent study, researchers show that Indian guts harbour a unique microbial population compared to other countries, and that the diverse diets within the country are associated with different gut microbes.
“Diet has been known to be the key driver in shaping the gut microbiome. Indian population has diverse lifestyles and food habits and so far, the Indian gut genome is not well explored,” states Vineet Sharma, a scientist at Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal and a member of the research team who performed the study. India also has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world, with 53% of deaths in India attributed to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. India thus presents an interesting case study to understand the interplay between gut, diet and health.
In this first-ever large-scale study, Sharma and colleagues analysed the microorganisms in gut of 110 healthy individuals to uncover the microbial diversity in India. The researchers sampled individuals from two locations with distinct diets: Bhopal in the North-Central region and Kerala from the southern part of India. The Bhopal population predominantly consumes a carbohydrate-rich diet, including plant-derived products, wheat and trans-fat food (high-fat dairy, sweets and fried snacks), whereas, the Kerala population commonly consumes an omnivorous diet comprising rice, meat, and fish.
Researchers collected faecal samples from the volunteers, froze it within 30 min of collecting, and used it to sequence the microbiome (the combined genetic material of all the microorganisms present in a sample). A common method used for such purpose is the sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene. This gene consists of a region that is variable in different microorganisms, allowing the classification of different microbes. Using this analysis, the researchers found a total of 943,395 genes that were unique to the Indian microbiome.
The microbiome of the Indian population was also compared to the microbiome of other countries, such as USA, China, and Denmark. “One of the most interesting results was the much higher levels of Prevotella species in Indian gut microbiome compared to the other populations,” says Sharma. Prevotella has been previously observed in communities that consume a plant-rich diet and is associated with vegetarianism.
The differences in the microbial population within the country were also studied. The microbiome of participants from Bhopal was enriched in species from genus Prevotella, while the same from Kerala was enriched in species of Bifidobacterium, RuminococcusClostridium and Faecalibacterium.
The authors propose these differences could arise due to the differences in the diet of the two locations. Using a method that annotates functions to genes, they showed that the Bhopal microbiome was enriched in genes involved in breaking down plant polysaccharides, while Kerala microbiome had genes involved in degrading lipids and proteins, indicating its animal-based diet.
Metabolites are small molecules produced during metabolism and can reveal insights on lifestyle and metabolic changes. An analysis of metabolites in the faeces showed a high concentration of saturated fatty acids and branched chain fatty acids in Bhopal microbiome, while the Kerala microbiome had short chain and medium chain fatty acids, presumably due to the high consumption of coconut oil in Kerala.
“Both branched-chain fatty acids (BCFA) and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) play an important role in the maintenance of health and elevated concentration of BCFAs may trigger the progression of different diseases,” says Bhabhatosh Das, a scientist at the Translational Health Science And Technology Institute (THSTI) who was not associated with the study.
It is known that the north-Indian population is predisposed towards diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Further studies like these on diabetic and obese individuals can provide more insights into such predispositions towards diseases.
This article has been republished from IndiaBioscience. Read the original article.

Nigeria's Largest Rural Mini-Grid to Electrify 600 Households in Ogun

Solar Nigeria for the People Limited (Solar Nigeria FTP), the Nigerian subsidiary of Solar Philippines at the weekend signed a Community Agreement with Ode Omi Community to invest about half a million dollars to build Nigeria's largest rural mini-grid.
Signing the agreement, the Country Director of Solar Nigeria FTP, Tobi Oluwatola, said the project when completed will electrify 634 households, seven schools, three hospitals, eight religious organizations, and more than 90 businesses in the community.
The project which is due to be commissioned in September 2019 will supply a peak load of 99kW to the community in its first phase, and up to 500kW in its second phase.
Giving highlights of the benefits of the project to the community, Mr Oluwatola explained that the company plans to train and employ more than 50 youth from Ode Omi Community in the construction phase and also employ security personnel from the village as well as empower existing recharge card vendors to make additional revenue from selling prepaid meter credits for the mini-grid in the operations phase.
"Other benefits to the community will include free street lighting and better health and education outcomes as hospitals can have necessary cooling, heating and lighting solutions and children will have light to study at night. Women also would not have to travel long distances to fetch water and wood as electric stoves and water pumps will replace firewood and stream water," Mr Oluwatola explained.
Mr Oluwatola noted that the Ode Omi project is the first out of hundreds to be constructed by his company, just as he assured of his firm's commitment to work with Distribution Companies (DISCOs) to build interconnected mini-grids that will supply many areas in urban centres.
"This is the first of many. Our goal is to build 100 mini-grids in our first year and to also work with DISCOs to build interconnected mini-grids that will supply previously underserved urban areas. We think that with solar today being cheaper than diesel (and gas in some countries), it is unconscionable that Nigerians continue to endure power cuts when we can aggressively deploy solar to solve the problem at scale. Our aim is to end energy poverty everywhere it exists," he said.
Speaking for the community, His Royal Highness, Adenuga Okuniyi (Ojafoyewa II) thanked the company for building its pilot mini-grid in Ode Omi community. He stressed the importance of the community and its rich history going back to Oduduwa, the ancestral father of the Yoruba people, one of whose direct descendants reportedly founded the Ode Omi dynasty.
The signing of the community solar agreement was witnessed by the Chairman of the Ogun Waterside Local Government, Abajo Olabode; the Chairman of the Ode Omi Community Solar Power Committee, Ahmed Surakatu; and Solar Philippines officials, Terence Dy Echo and Carlos Fernandez.
Some of the members of the community interviewed were excited about the prospects of 24 hours uninterrupted power in the community.
Babatunde Ajose, a local entrepreneur said the project will make his business be more productive and profitable.
According to him, he would not have to travel four miles, and spend N1000 on transportation to Folu village to buy fuel for his generator on a weekly basis. He was also pleased to know that the tariff, would ensure that he spends less than he currently spends on fuel to get reliable and clean power.
Like Mr Ajose, five rice millers, and several fishermen interviewed also echoed similar sentiment, saying that constant electricity will enable them to save costs and also preserve their products better with affordable cold storage options.
In only five years of its founding, the company is already the largest vertically integrated solar developer-manufacturer-EPC-IPP in South East Asia, with 800 MW manufacturing capacity, 500 MW projects operating and under construction and multiple GW in development in seven countries.


Pakistan gets $1b Chinese market access for rice, sugar, yarn


The Chinese government has finally offered Pakistan market access for three commodities — rice, sugar and yarn — worth $1 billion for the current calendar year, an official in the Commerce Division confirmed.
The official said rice shipments to China have already begun as part of the deal which was agreed during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s four-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai in the first week of November last year.
Under the agreement, exporters have been allowed to ship 200,000 tonnes of rice and 300,000 tonnes of sugar — total value of $300 million — to China in the ongoing calendar year.
Moreover, the agreement also includes preferential market access for around $700m worth of yarn but it seems highly unlikely that Pakistan will have adequate surplus quantity of yarn to export to China as cotton production remains lacklustre.
The Chinese authorities were unwilling to increase the total quantity of these items despite multiple requests, the official added.
Another Commerce Division official said exporters will only have nine months to avail the facility as it will expire by Dec 31, adding that the government is working to get access for wheat and other agriculture commodities as well.
Moreover, this agreement will also be extended to calendar 2020. Pakistan’s exports to China are expected to reach $2.2bn in the ongoing calendar year and $3.2bn in the next.
The official also said that a major breakthrough is expected in the stalled negotiations between Beijing and Islamabad on the second phase of Pak-China Free Trade Agreement (PCFTA) and the outcome will be announced on April 2. He said a delegation led by the secretary commerce will leave for China later this month.
Sharing the progress made in PCFTA negotiations, he informed that Islamabad will get market access for 301 tariff lines, which will cover most of its exports and allow export of commodities which are currently negligible.
The PCFTA covers nearly 7,000 tariff lines at the eight-digit level of the HS code. Both sides reduced tariffs on almost 36 per cent of the tariff lines to zero during first three years of PCFTA’s Phase-1.
Moreover, second phase was supposed to commence from the sixth year of the agreement ie 2013, but was delayed as officials from both countries failed to reach an agreement despite meeting for more than 11 times.
As per the initial agreement, at the end of PCFTA’s second phase, both sides were to reduce tariffs on 90pc of the tariff lines to zero.
The negotiations on the Phase-II of PCFTA began in 2011.

Malaysian PM Mahathir leaves Pakistan after three-day visit

March 23, 2019

  Description: Description: Description:
Photo: AFP
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad left Pakistan on Saturday after a three-day visit. 
He departed shortly after attending the country’s Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad as the chief guest.
During his visit, PM Mahathir met Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior Pakistani officials. Pakistan and Malaysia also signed memorandums of understanding for cooperation in five major projects in the car assembly, meat, telecom and stone sectors.
Malaysia will be setting up an auto plant in Pakistan. It has also expressed an interest in purchasing rice and halal meat from Pakistan as well as JF-17 Thunder jets.
During a media talk on Friday, Finance Minister Asad Umar said Pakistan will soon implement an agreement to export anti-tank missiles to Malaysia. In the meantime, both countries have agreed to open branches of their banks in each other’s countries, he said. The finance minister added that Pakistan will capitalize on the Malaysian experience in the tourism industry.
Follow SAMAA English on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Pakistan to receive loan from China by March 25

March 23, 2019
Description: Pakistan

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Finance Ministry has announced that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will receive a $2.1 billion loan from China by March 25, the media reported on Friday. Ministry spokesman Khaqan Najeeb Khan said on Thursday that “all procedural formalities” for the transfer of the loan being provided to Pakistan by the Chinese government have been completed, and “the funds will be deposited in the SBP account by Monday 25”, Dawn news reported.
The loan facility, the spokesman said, “will further strengthen foreign exchange reserves and ensure balance of payment stability”. Following a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in November 2018, China had said that it was willing to offer assistance to Islamabad to help it weather its current fiscal woes but that the terms of such aid were still being discussed.
Shortly after, Chinese Consul General Long Dingbin had said during an interview that in order to “boost Pakistan’s economy”, Beijing is investing in multiple sectors and launching business ventures instead of providing loans. Besides the loan package, the Chinese government has also offered Pakistan market access for three commodities – rice, sugar and yarn – worth $1 billion for the current calendar year, a Commerce Division official told Dawn on Thursday.
The official said rice shipments to China have already begun as part of the deal which was agreed during the Prime Minister’s China visit. Under the agreement, exporters have been allowed to ship 200,000 tonnes of rice and 300,000 tonnes of sugar – total value of $300 million – to China in the ongoing calendar year.
Moreover, the agreement also includes preferential market access for around $700 million worth of yarn but it seems highly unlikely that Pakistan will have adequate surplus quantity of yarn to export to China as cotton production remains lacklustre. This agreement will also be extended to calendar 2020. Pakistan’s exports to China are expected to reach $2.2 billion in the ongoing calendar year and $3.2 billion in the next, according to official figures. (IANS)

Stocks post modest recovery after six weeks of losses

Our Equities CorrespondentUpdated March 24, 2019
Description: Investor sentiments were buoyed by positive developments on the macro front. — Dawn Newspaper/File
Investor sentiments were buoyed by positive developments on the macro front. — Dawn Newspaper/File
KARACHI: Stocks managed to crawl up in the outgoing week, snapping six-week losing streak. The benchmark KSE-100 index recovered 225 points (0.59 per cent) and closed at 38,532.
Investor sentiments were buoyed by positive developments on the macro front which included contraction in current account deficit numbers in February and materialisation of bilateral flows. The finance ministry expected receipt of $2.1bn from China by March 25, which was in addition to granting Pakistan access to its $1bn rice, sugar and yarn industries. Some clarity also seemed to emerge on the IMF bailout as the finance minister expressed government’s willingness to seal the deal by mid of April.
Although the market started on a firm footing with the index recording gains of 545 points, the recovery was almost wiped off in the three successive bearish sessions as investors worried over lack of triggers; scant information on IMF deal and the escalation in the political tensions with the Pakistan Peoples Party threatening to launch a long march to Islamabad.
The average daily traded volume declined 10pc over the earlier week to 84m shares while the value increased by 7pc to $28m reflecting considerable activity in big-cap stocks. Volume leaders were however, the small investors’ favourite sideboard stocks such as PAEL showing trading in 7.6m shares, BOP 7.2m shares, KEL 4.9m shares and TRG 2.9m shares.
However, the overall volume and its value remained low as investors adopted wait-watch strategy in anticipation of further tightening in SBP’s monetary policy due at the end of the month.
Foreign investors emerged as net buyers during the outgoing week accumulating scrips worth $3.1m. Foreign interest was largely concentrated in banks that saw buying of stocks worth $2.9m and oil & gas with net purchases of $1.7m.
On the other side, the cement sector witnessed an outflow of $1.2m. Among local participants, banks with purchases of $2.5m and individuals $2.0m pumped liquidity into the market, while major selling was done by insurance companies of stocks worth $4.8m.
Commercial banks and E&P were the best performing sectors during the week, adding 278 points and 194 points, respectively to the index. E&P stocks rallied on the prime minister’s statement regarding possibility of enormous discovery in offshore drilling, while textiles particularly lower end of the value chain -- spinning and weaving -- garnered investors’ interest on potential Chinese market access. Fertiliser sector also added 75 points.
Negative contributions were made by power generation and distribution (126 points), oil and gas marketing companies (39 points) and pharmaceuticals (30 points).
Scrip-wise major positive contributions came from PPL (115 points), MCB (91 points), HBL (77 points), POL (57 points) and OGDC (51 points). Major laggards included Hubco (122 points), The Searle (30 points) and Mari (29 points).
Going forward, market is expected to trade range-bound as anticipation and predictions on monetary policy due at the end of the week would keep investors on the back foot. Futures roll-over week could also keep market under pressure and so also the concerns over the FATF proceedings. “The upcoming budget would be a key flashpoint for the market,” observed one market watcher.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2019

Kuala Lumpur signs deals for 'big projects' during Mahathir's Pakistan visit

Description: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcoming Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad to Islamabad on Thursday evening.Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan welcoming Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad to Islamabad on Thursday evening.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
MAR 23, 2019, 5:00 AM SGT
ISLAMABAD • Malaysia has shown interest in buying JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, halal meat and rice from Pakistan, and will soon procure anti-tank missiles from Islamabad, Pakistan's Finance Minister Asad Umar said yesterday.
Officials from the two countries have signed memorandum of understanding for five "big projects", he told journalists during an informal discussion.
Visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan held a one-on-one meeting yesterday.
Mr Umar said officials also agreed to open branches of their respective banks in each other's countries, and that Pakistan would try to make use of Malaysia's knowledge of tourism as it looks to revive its local industry.
A senior official had said on Thursday that Pakistan was set to sign deals worth US$900 million (S$1.2 billion) in areas such as telecoms, information technology and power generation during the three-day visit by Tun Dr Mahathir, who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday evening.
Pakistan, facing an economic crisis due to depleting foreign reserves and a widening current account deficit, has been searching for investment since the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August.
Media reports say the JF-17, a multirole combat aircraft, was developed by China's Chengdu Aircraft Corporation and is produced jointly with defence and aviation contractor Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.
The Pakistan Air Force has about 110 JF-17s, and the defence forces of Nigeria and Myanmar also use the aircraft, said a report in the South China Morning Post early this month.
At a joint press conference, Prime Minister Khan said he admired Dr Mahathir for his stand against corruption. "We actually believe that countries are not poor, corruption makes them poor. Corruption destroys state institutions," he said.
Bernama news agency quoted Dr Mahathir as saying the two countries can "exchange information on how to combat corruption".
He added: "We are very concerned about corruption. You have to pay a certain amount to make sure certain job is done. Sometimes money is stolen by officials and this has to be stopped."

Dr Mahathir also held a meeting with President Arif Alvi yesterday.
The 93-year-old Malaysian Prime Minister was awarded the Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country's highest civil honour.
Dr Mahathir will today be the chief guest at the Pakistan Day parade.

Taking full stock of Pakistan’s fruitful 70-year ties with PHL

TODAY, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of its diplomatic relations with the Republic of the Philippines.
For Dr. Aman Rashid, a priority of his tenure as ambassador is to establish a “sisterhood” status between two major cities of both countries.
Description: Aman Rashid, Pakistan’s ambassador to the Philippines
“All ambassadors have a passion to leave a legacy; to establish people-to-people contacts—particularly through a sister-city relationship,” he admitted during a wide-ranging interview inside the Pakistan embassy in Makati City. It is in the country’s business capital where he wishes to have the bond established with Karachi.
“[They] have the same kind of culture: Both are cosmopolitan, [although] Karachi is older,” as he explained that the largest city of Pakistan traces its roots from ancient times.
The envoy pointed out that near Karachi is the primeval village of Mohenjo-daro, which typified “an old example of organized living like [the one we have] today. It was the first capital of Pakistan.”
(History books have it that Mohenjo-daro [meaning, “mound of the dead men”] is an archaeological site in the province of Sindh. Built around 2,500 BCE, it was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world’s earliest major cities, along with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoan Crete and Norte Chico. Significant excavation has since been conducted in the locale of the city, which was designated in 1980 as among Unesco’s World Heritage sites.)
Description: last year’s Pakistan Day anniversary celebration, with the Department of Foreign Affairs’s Assistant Secretary Millicent Cruz-Paredes and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia
Dr. Rashid said he would like to follow President Duterte’s lead in promoting bilateral relations with friendly countries.
According to him, Pakistan and the Philippines both “have the same kind of economy and development. [Our citizens have a good command of the English language.]”
As a tangible reminder of the ties that bind both countries, he revealed a plan to have a commemorative stamp issued for the celebration.
Since arriving 18 months ago, the ambassador has been in constant consultations with top government officials to improve trade relations between the two countries.
His aim, he said, is to hammer out a preferential trade agreement, “but the biggest hurdle for [our] country is to have trade links with Asean countries.”
Currently, Pakistan is considered as an Asean sectoral-dialogue partner; the diplomat, however, disclosed that they want to elevate this status.
Although Manila fully supports Islamabad’s desire to be a full-dialogue partner, Dr. Rashid admitted the difficulty “is in the internal arrangement [within Asean].”
Having been posted in the country since September 2017, he was witness to the Asean Summit in Manila and observed that it was very well organized.
The envoy pointed out, however, that because of a “preferential arrangement,” an external country could only become a full partner through joint ventures.
He explained that investing in the Philippines requires the full advantage of tariff concessions within Asean. Currently, his government is working on addressing that matter.

On local regulations

IN February Dr. Rashid related that Pakistan arranged for the arrival of a “very high-powered delegation comprised of 25 very senior industrialists [who] came over to discuss these things.” He accompanied the Pakistani investors to the respective Departments of Foreign Affairs, as well as Trade and Industry, as officials of both agencies had previously led a joint economic commission to Pakistan.
Among the businessmen he went with, one engages in cement manufacturing, while the other one is into pharmaceuticals. The latter wanted to place $50 million in the country to take advantage of the 100 million plus Filipino market, as well as the 600 million citizens of Asean.
Pakistan, Dr. Rashid claims, has one of the most developed pharmaceutical industries in the world, but cited the difficulties of their products in finding their way into the country because of its stringent regulations.
He said his compatriot-pharmaceutical investors should have been accorded with preferential treatment for business registrations, while having to forego layers of bureaucracy, as in the case of one Pakistani from the United States who developed an injectable ibuprofen and wanted to market the medical innovation in different countries.
But when he came over to the Philippines, his party was informed that they have to first register with the Food and Drug Administration, and that there is a trial period for the medicine, which has to be first given to at about 3,000 patients. After such, an assessment has to be made, which is part of a long process.
The medical doctor that he is, the ambassador wondered why a proven analgesic drug needed to undergo such regulatory hurdles. (He pointed out that a multinational pharmaceutical company, which was involved in a recent controversy, was able to penetrate local medical institutions without going through the same process, “and yet, made Filipinos as guinea pigs for [its own] trials.”)
“The point is, there has to be some [form of] laxity; you can’t have too many stringent laws if there is an innovation proven [to work].”
The doctor-envoy politely commented on whether a strong lobby representing foreign drug manufacturers in the Philippines is behind the strict protocols against competitors: “The point is, there [exists] roadblocks; there are speed-breakers.”
He said there are already Pakistanis engaged in pharmaceuticals in the country—one of them an established expert practicing in Tagaytay City.
He said there are many Pakistanis willing to invest in the Philippine pharmaceutical sector so that the cost of medicine production will be reduced, “and you’ll get opportunities in cheaper medicine.”

Trade and tariffication

WHILE discussions were ongoing during their visit to different government agencies, Dr. Rashid took notice of some “unwelcome developments.”
“Unfortunately, there was also a change in the rice-importation policy of the government, [which is] the tariffication, in favor of the Asean [member-states].”
He was referring to February’s signing by Duterte of the rice tariffication law that will replace the present quota on rice imports with tax. (Local farmers had opposed the bill, as they feared it would result to the flooding in the market of cheaper rice from abroad. It will also reduce the government’s role in rice importation, as it will leave that role to the private sector.)
The envoy labeled this development as “unfortunate,” as it would render importing rice from Pakistan more expensive.
“There’s a big difference between Asean and non-Asean [membership],” he explained, as he noted that Asean members who wanted to export rice are levied at a lower rate, compared to those outside the bloc.
To “address” this new tariff imposition, he said non-Asean countries have to go through a “backdoor country.” But the biggest debacle in taking this route, he described, is the 28-day naval shipment to Manila: “It raises the tariff [further, as well as] the cost of transportation, [among] other things.”
Dr. Rashid noted that under the new rice tariffication law, Pakistan was treated as a special case and was given 40-percent rate for three years, lower than the 50 percent allowed for non-Asean member-countries.
Because of this, there is a pending memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the importation of 1.5 million metric tons of rice from his country, “but unfortunately it was delayed, as the policy is now subject for review.”
Under these circumstances, he pointed out that as far as rice exporters are concerned, delays of such kind have an immediate effect on business and, therefore, stakeholders have to find ways to survive.

Agricultural powerhouse

THE diplomat said Pakistan has signed a different MOA with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, which is “to develop the food chain and different aspects of agriculture: from grains, produce, to fruits: whatever agriculture-based elements are there under the sun.”
Asked the value of Pakistan’s surplus rice supply, the 58-year-old envoy said they export more than $3 billion of the grain. “After textile, rice is [our second-largest] export.”
He said he had been trying to convince the country to get its rice from Pakistan, because the latter produces the IRRI-6 variety—a product of the International Rice Research Institute in Laguna, but one that his country had successfully produced in abundance.
Dr. Rashid said he is aware that Filipinos like their rice sticky and fragrant—the kind of organic grain in the Philippines. On the other hand, Pakistan also grows the more expensive and fragrant rice variety, the basmati, which is loose when cooked and is not that popular among ordinary Filipinos.
“This is what I’m trying to convince the people in your government: That we are a very reliable partner, and we can be [relied upon when it comes to the] supply of rice, because we produce a lot of it,” as he offered the fact that his countrymen’s main staple is wheat.
“We have ample supply of both.”

Overcoming hurdles

STILL, other issues that were discussed by the delegation with local government officials included the two-way traffic of goods and services between both countries.
He explained that businessmen have different orientations compared to diplomats like him, where for the former, predictability is an important element. One happens to be into textile manufacturing and is interested to do business here.
“We’re also producing cars and motor vehicles. Last year, exports from the Philippines have increased more than from Pakistan. But the hurdle is the tariff between Asean and non-Asean countries,” he reiterated, with some degree of frustration noted in his voice.
The Pakistani ambassador said that without these impediments, it would have been far easier for his country’s two main products, which are rice and seafood, to enter this country.
When Duterte announced the massive “Build, Build, Build” undertaking for the country, the envoy admitted it opened plenty of opportunities, such as investments in cement manufacturing.
“And we are beginning to produce our cement also, but because of tariffs, it has become very difficult [to export to the Philippines].”

Concerning Kashmir

DR. Rashid also touched on the crisis that recently erupted between Pakistan and India, as both briefly engaged in a shooting skirmish in February.
Pakistan had previously claimed to have shot down two Indian jets and captured an Indian pilot after a dogfight over Kashmir, which ignited fears of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Tensions remain high on the Asian subcontinent, where tens of thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers faced off along the disputed Kashmir boundary.
However, in a gesture of goodwill, Pakistan has repatriated the pilot, which demonstrates its willingness to diffuse the conflict.

Desire to move forward

THE Pakistani envoy considered the aforementioned MOA as a “landmark agreement,” and manifests the existing cordial relations between our two countries.
“I’m just trying to convey…that I think, there’s cordiality and desire from both sides to move forward, especially under Duterte, who is also focused on rooting out corruption, poverty and drugs.”
He said Pakistan echoes the Chief Executive’s advocacy, which is “to uplift the life of the average person.” He went as far as mentioning the plight of a previous Pakistani prime minister, who is now behind bars.
“These people are looters, and because of [them], we have a financial crisis due to corruption in the government. That is why we’re cutting [down] on our budget. Hopefully things will improve, and so the focus [of our] country is now in the right direction.”
On another front, the ambassador said the issue on tourism is also timely to be discussed. He said a female executive doing business in Pakistan has established a tourism-promotion information office in Lahore for Filipinos.
His country has recently established the China-Pakistan economic corridor, an ancient trade route that is now the flagship project of China’s “One Belt, One Road” (Obor) scheme, which cost $60 billion. The first phase of roads, highways and skyways have been completed.
Filled with excitement in trying to describe the place, the good ambassador said the area where the Obor will go through “is more beautiful than Switzerland, and [is] three times higher than the Alps.”
“We have the Himalayas, we have the seven highest mountains [on Earth],” he exclaimed, then added the place could draw in plenty of trucking tourism, mountain tourism and also skiing.
The area, he described, is “very nice, and it has opened the entire Pakistan for tourism because it’s [almost] heaven on Earth.”

Pakistan desires good relations with all its neighbors: President

Parvez JabriMarch 23, 2019

ISLAMABAD: President Dr. Arif Alvi on Friday said that Pakistan was a peaceful and sovereign country, desirous of having good relations with all its neighbors.
He further stated that Pakistan believed in dialogue with all countries including India on all matters of mutual interest, but not at the cost of its territorial integrity.
He noted that they would like all friendly countries to urge India to engage with Pakistan for peaceful resolution of Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.
The president said while talking to Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan, Colonel General Hasanov Zakir Asgar Oglu, who was called on him here.  He noted that Pakistan highly valued its brotherly relations with Azerbaijan.
He highlighted the tremendous bilateral goodwill and appreciated the participation of President Ilham Aliyev’s in the 13th ECO Summit held on 1st March 2017 in Islamabad.
He also appreciated Azerbaijan’s support to Pakistan’s candidature for the membership of OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commissioner (IPHRC). Furthermore, he appreciated Azerbaijan’s continued support on Jammu and Kashmir.
The president said that the present state of their bilateral economic cooperation was not commensurate with the true potential and there was a need to enhance the volume of their bilateral trade.
He highlighted the need to explore possibilities of cooperation and trade in agriculture, manufacturing, services sector, ready-made garments, cotton products, engineering goods, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, rice, textile, fabrics, sports goods, surgical instruments and tents.
He underlined that the liberalization of visa regime by Pakistan will increase the number of tourists and businessmen from Azerbaijan.
The president highlighted the potential for defense cooperation between the two countries. He noted that Pakistan has heavily invested in installing effective border controls while facilitating legitimate travel of common people on Pak-Afghan border.
He also underscored that the whole region needs to play its role in reconstruction and rebuilding of Afghanistan.
The Defense Minister of Azerbaijan said that the bilateral relations of Pakistan and Azerbaijan were marked by continuity and that the two brotherly countries have always stood by each other.
He also highlighted that the frequent military trainings between the armed forces of the two nations have served as an immense source of learning.
The president expressed immense pleasure to see brothers from Azerbaijan participate in the Pakistan Day’s celebrations. He also extended invitation to President Ilham Aliyev to visit Pakistan at his convenience.

Bailout talks continuing at high level: IMF official

Tahir AminMarch 22, 2019
ISLAMABAD: International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan are continuing discussions at high level for a bailout package.
This was stated by Gerry Rice, Director Communication Department IMF during a media briefing.
Replying to a question about the status of the IMF negotiations with Pakistan, Rice said that they are closely engaged in these discussions.
“There have been a series of meetings, which we talked about here before, including Madame Lagarde having met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan fairly recently. Those discussions are continuing and there will be a mission to Pakistan shortly, though I do not have the exact date on that [reference to a new IMF mission chief’s trip for introductory meetings with the authorities]”, said Rice.
Replying to another question he said ‘about the amount which IMF is looking at giving financial assistance to Pakistan the number is not there, that is something that will be discussed in the context of the consultations with the authorities”.
He further said that the discussions have been ongoing at various levels even at those high levels, and they expect a mission to Pakistan shortly for further discussions.
“I cannot put a date on when they would conclude or when we would be in a position to announce agreement. There’s a process, staff visits, negotiating missions, and then we would come to it”, he added.
Governor House hosts Biryani festival
The Sindh Governor House hosted a Biryani festival on Thursday night under the aegis of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP).
Governor Imran Ismail while speaking on the occasion appreciated the fact that similar Biryani festivals were also being organised under the aegis of the REAP in 14 countries and 22 cities of the world.
He said holding such festivals would help in boosting Pakistan’s economy as they helped to encourage the people associated with the rice sector of the country. The rice crop of our country was appreciated all over the world due to its quality, taste and fragrance, Ismail said, adding that the government had the utmost resolve to provide maximum facilities to the industrialists, growers and exporters related to the rice sector in order to increase exports of the agricultural product. He said the government would introduce reforms to increase rice production.

Kenya to import more food as local harvests dwindle

In Summary
• Rice production is expected to stagnate due to delays in the expansion of Mwea irrigation schemes.
• Asian countries are expected to dominate exports to Kenya led by Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and South Korea.
Description: Dominion rice fields are sprayed / FILE
Dominion rice fields are sprayed / FILE
Kenya's food imports of corn, wheat, and rice are expected to increase in the coming financial year due to a widening local supply deficit, a report has said.
“Corn and wheat production are both expected to dip on account of the reduced planted area while rice production is projected to stagnate, due to delays in anticipated rehabilitation and expansion of the irrigation infrastructure,” the report by United States Department of Agriculture Service said.
While there is reduced production, USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Office in Nairobi noted that consumption of the three commodities is expected to continue increasing.
For instance, consumption of rice is expected to go up from 800 metric tonnes (MT) to 820 MT driven mainly by increasing household incomes, and urbanisation but production will stagnate due to delays in the expansion of irrigation schemes.
According to the report, new production from Mwea Irrigation Scheme - that produces about 80 per cent of Kenya’s rice is currently undergoing expansion and is likely to be completed in 2021.
“Overall Kenya’s rice sector will continue to be limited by lack of suitable land, and inadequate water,” USDA agricultural specialist Kennedy Gitonga said.
He noted that due to the above, Asian countries are expected to dominate exports to Kenya led by Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and South Korea.
Within the first six months of the forecast period, the cost of rice in retail is expected to remain constant at between sh110 per kilo and Sh125 per kilo.
The report further notes that due to low morale among corn farmers caused by a marketing crisis, production of the cereal will dip from 4,050 MT to 3,600 MT.
It is also projected that corn harvesting area will reduce from 2,200 acres to 2,000 acres, as consumption moves up to by 50 MT to 4,700 by 2020.
Asian countries are expected to dominate exports to Kenya led by Pakistan, Thailand, China, India, and South Korea. 
A bulk of the available corn for consumption is expected to come from Uganda and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Corn production is also expected to be adversely impacted by the delay in the importation of the government's subsidised fertilisers.
In addition, some of the farmers have resorted to premature harvesting of their corn and converting it into silage for livestock.
While a dip in production is set to take centre stage during the season, USDA forecasts volatile corn prices in the first half of 2019/2020 due to a dysfunctional marketing system, cheaper sourcing of imports from the EAC countries, and the lapse of the government consumer subsidy programme.
The National Cereals and Produce Board has set the corn purchase at Sh2,500 per 90 kilograms For wheat, the US agency foresees a reduction in wheat planted areas as farmers shift to other more competitive enterprises such as barley, horticulture, dairy, sorghum, and pyrethrum.
This will see areas of harvest reduce from 170 acres to 160 acres hence imports are expected to rise by 200 MT to 2,400 MT in the coming financial year.
The 110 Mt rise in consumption from 2570 is expected to be imported from Russia, Argentina, and Ukraine.

Nigeria Is Now Africa's Largest Producer of Rice

Description: Nigeria Is Now Africa's Largest Producer of Rice
 Sat, Mar 23, 2019

The African Exponent Weekly

Every week, get a digest of Top African News and Articles from The African Exponent.
Enter your email
Sign Up
TDP looks to have an edge in Srikakulam
SRIKAKULAM , MARCH 24, 2019 01:17 IST
UPDATED: MARCH 24, 2019 01:17 IST

With all seven MLAs in its kitty, it helped party build cadre

Though Srikakulam is considered an economically backward district, it is active on the political front, as was evident in 1952 when Boddepalli Rajagopla Rao won as an independent candidate, although the nation’s mood was in favour of Congress Party in the first general elections after India attained Independence.
Later, Mr. Rajagopala Rao joined the Congress and represented Srikakulam in Parliament till 1984, barring few years between 1967 and 1971 when Sardar Gowthu Latchanna got elected to Lok Saba on Swatantra Party ticket. Interestingly, both Mr. Rajagopala Rao and Mr. Gowthu Latchanna played a prominent role in national politics.
The legacy continued when Kinjarapu Yerrannaidu was elected to Parliament in 1996, and he represented the seat till 2009. He became Minister in the Union cabinet and leader of leader of Telugu Desam Parliament Party. He headed the Standing Committee on Railways. In spite of the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy wave in the State, Mr. Yerrannaidu could win the seat in 2004. However, he was defeated by Congress nominee Killi Kruparani in 2009.
Ms. Kruparani also played a key role in New Delhi politics by securing a berth in the Union Ministry although she got elected to the Parliament for the first time. Mr. Yerrannaidu’s son, Kinjarapu Rammohan Naidu, got elected to Parliament in 2014.
After the death of Mr. Yerrannaidu in a road accident in 2012, Mr. Rammohan Naidu contested from the constituency in 2014. He defeated his nearest rival and YSRCP candidate Reddi Shanti with a margin of 1.27, 572 votes. Former ZP Vice Chairperson Duvvada Srinivas is contesting on YSRCP ticket this time. Both leaders are confident of winning the seat with comfortable majority, citing their own political advantages.
In the last elections, the TDP won six of the seven Assembly segments in Srikakulam Lok Sabha constituency. The YSRCP won the Patapatnam seat, but its MLA Kalamata Venkata Ramana joined the TDP in 2015.
Having sitting MLAs in all seven segments helped the TDP to build the cadre further. The party also feels that welfare schemes have reached nook and corner of the district and it had helped the party win the hearts of people.
The YSRCP claims that the TDP could not ensure any concrete development of the constituency in the last five years and failed to establish a single reputed institution, although many were sanctioned in the last five years. The TDP claims it could ensure establishment of Rice Research Centre, construction of Vamsadhara phase-2 and stop migration of many people from the district by concentrating on agriculture and irrigation sectors.

Using Ad blocker for Ad Free experience?

Introducing The Hindu Plus

Try our "Ad free" Website

Sign Up for 30 Days Free TrialExplore our Subscription Plans
Already a user? Sign In
To know more about Ad free news reading experience and subscription Click Here
or Please remove the Ad Blocker

Agri varsity signs pact with IRRI to develop new rice varieties

IRRI will also establish its regional centre on the university campus for giving more thrust to the rice research programs in Telangana.
Published: 24th March 2019 08:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2019 08:21 AM  
Description: Agri varsityBy Express News Service
HYDERABAD: Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) has collaborated with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippines, to jointly develop rice varieties that are drought tolerant, pest and disease resistant. The focus would also be on developing rice varieties with low glysemic index which more commonly preferred by diabetic patients. 
IRRI will also establish its regional centre on the university campus for giving more thrust to the rice research programs in the State. The university has agreed to provide 20-25 acres of land on the campus for this centre.  “IRRI has shown keen interest to work with the PJTSAU on collaborative research projects. IRRI and PJTSAU have decided to prepare rice development project within next four months and submit it to the State government for implementation,” said Dr V Praveen Rao, vice chancellor of PJTSAU.
IRRI and PJTSAU will prepare an action plan for rice varieties in view of the large scale irrigation projects in the State. The research programmes will be taken up on water use efficiency in rice crop and thrust will be given to kharif  rice varieties. 
The team of scientists from IRRI, led by its director general Dr. Mathew Morrell, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)  with PJTSAU here on Saturday. Earlier, the team met agriculture minister S Niranjan Reddy. As part of the MoU, capacity building programmes will be organised by the IRRI for the faculty of PJTSAU on advanced breeding technologies. In addition, student and faculty exchange programmes between the two organisations will also be taken up.

MARCH 24, 2019
Description: Four Thousand Seven Hundred Small Scale farmers are set to benefit from a Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Rice dissemination project in Luapula Province.
Project coordinator Goichi Sasaki says the project is helping farmers learn skills on how to plant various seed varieties like Nerica 4.
Mr. Sakaki says JICA is working with Zambia Agriculture Research Institute -ZARI- in Luapula and Chilanga to ensure a variety of NERICA 4 is promoted among the farmers.
He says currently there are more than three hundred rice demonstration fields in Luapula, Northwestern, Western and Eastern provinces.
Mr. Sakaki further says over fifty million Kwacha will be spent in the next five years on the project in the four provinces.
And Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo says there is need to reduce the 45 thousand tonne rice deficit in the country through improved methods being introduced by JICA.
Mr. Katambo was speaking in a speech read for him by Luapula Province Deputy permanent Secretary Lloyd Chakaba during a field day event which was held in Fibalala area, in Samfya district.
Meanwhile farmers in Samfya have told ZNBC news that they are now embracing the new methods of cultivating rice.
Titus Chela said from one kilogram of rice seeds he has planted, he is expecting to harvest about one hundred and fifty kilograms of rice.

Agency to revive lake region’s white elephant projects

·       Kepher Otieno  24th Mar 2019 00:00:00 GMT +0300
Lake Basin Development Authority rice mills. the mill has been operating at less than five percent its capacity, forcing many rice farmers to sell their produce to Uganda merchants with ready cash. [Photo: Collins Oduor Standard]
The Lake Basin Development Authority regional managers have been asked to submit proposals aimed at reviving stalled projects and mooting viable ventures to attract fresh funding.
One of such white elephant is the Sh6 billion Oluch Kimira irrigation project in Karachuonyo sub-county that was abandoned despite its food production potential.
“These are just but some of the projects that we want to revive now and make them sustainable if we are to attain food security,” said LBDA new Managing Director Raymond Omollo.
The irrigation project was meant to support smallholder farmers growing maize, rice, vegetables and other horticultural crops in Karachuonyo and Rangwe sub-counties.
Omollo (pictured) said a feasibility study conducted by LBDA 10 years ago shows the area has potential to produce hundreds of tonnes of the crops. Today, only a few farmers grow watermelon, potatoes, kales, rice and arrow roots.
The government recently injected Sh150 million to repair machinery at the authority and pay farmers for deliveries.
Omollo said the authority has modern rice milling machines with a through-put capacity of 25 tonnes per hour cleaning and drying and able to produce 24,000 tonnes a year.
The MD told all senior management employees to brace for fresh performance contracts and that all of them must show why they need to continue working for LBDA.
“We want each and every senior management employee, including regional managers, to prove their value at the Authority. So they must sign fresh contracts,” he said.
Omollo told the employees that gone are the days when they reported to work and just idled in offices without doing any substantive work.
“Everyone will have to account for their presence here,” he said as he unveiled a new work plan for the authority.
In the past, LBDA used to be one of the authorities with great agriculture projects. It was famed for its mechanised agriculture in villages to boost food security. Most of these village projects collapsed or are performing poorly.
Karachuonyo MP Adipo Okuome asked the authority to revive all its viable projects to improve the livelihoods of the people.
“We are not happy a good project such as Oluch Kimira has not been put into productive use,” said Okuome. 

UAE eyes closer agricultural cooperation with PH

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora  March 25, 2019, 1:52 pm

United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi (UAE Cabinet website photo)
MANILA -- A ranking official from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is embarking on a two-day official visit to the Philippines until Tuesday (March 26) to explore cooperation with Manila in agriculture and food sciences, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi is scheduled to visit the Philippines Rice Research Institute in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, and the International Research Rice Institute in Los Baños, Laguna.

During her stay in the country, the minister will be accompanied by Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana and is expected to meet senior officials from the Department of Agriculture.

Mehairi was appointed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum in October 2017.

Prior to her appointment, she served as Assistant Undersecretary for Water Resources and Nature Conservation Affairs at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

As early as 1981, the two nations sought ways to establish stronger ties anchored on agriculture with the signing of the Protocol on Agricultural Cooperation, inked in April 1981. To date, UAE's top import from the Philippines is banana, including plantains, dried or fresh. (PNA)

GOCC subsidies down 13% in January

MARCH 25, 2019
Subsidies received by state-run companies from the government declined in January, latest Treasury bureau data showed.
A total of P795 million was provided to 18 government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) during the month, 13.8 percent lower than the P922 million recorded a year earlier.
Description: National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which is responsible for irrigation development and management, accounted for the bulk or P435 million.
The next-biggest allocation went to the Philippine Heart Center, which got P74 million, followed by Philippine Children’s Medical Center (P67 million) and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (P50 million).
Other GOCCs that received assistance were the Light Rail Transit Authority, Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Credit Information Corp., Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Dairy Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, People’s Television Network Inc., Southern Philippines Development Authority, and Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority.
The subsidies fell under the national government’s disbursements program.
In January, state spending contracted by 7 percent to P212.2 billion, resulting largely from the delays in the implementation of new government projects and salary adjustments due to the deferred passage of the 2019 budget.
In 2018, the national government gave away a record P136.652 billion in subsidies.
State firms that received the biggest funding assistance were the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (P52.950 billion), NIA, (P28.427 billion) and Land Bank of the Philippine (P25.622 billion).

UAE minister for food security in Manila for 2-day visit

By Roy Mabasa 
A high-ranking official of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be in the country for a two-day visit beginning Monday, March 25, to explore cooperation with the Philippines in the areas of agriculture and food sciences, particularly in rice.
Description: United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi will visit the Philippine on 25-26 March 2019. (UAE Cabinet website photo)
United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi will visit the Philippine on 25-26 March 2019. (UAE Cabinet website photo)
UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi will visit the Philippines Rice Research Institute in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna.
During her visit, Mehairi is also expected to meet senior officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA), as well as other stakeholders in agribusiness.
She will be feted with a welcome dinner to be hosted by the DA. Preparations for her visit are being jointly undertaken by the DA, the UAE Embassy in Manila and the DFA.
Philippine Ambassador to Abu Dhabi Hjayceelyn Quintana will accompany the UAE cabinet official during the visit.
In October 2017, Mehairi was appointed to her current post by UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Prior to that, she served as Assistant Undersecretary for Water Resources and Nature Conservation Affairs at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.
Part of her responsibilities includes overseeing the development of necessary infrastructure to achieve food security objectives in line with “UAE Centennial 2071”.
Mehairi received her bachelor and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University in Aachen, Germany.

LoC TRADE AND TRAVEL: India, Pakistan officials to meet at ‘zero point’ in Uri today

A senior official told Greater Kashmir that the meeting, fixed on Monday evening, will be attended by officers from the civil administration and army from the Indian side.
Mukeet Akmali 
Srinagar, Publish Date: Mar 25 2019 1:55AM | Updated Date: Mar 25 2019 1:55AM
As the cross-LoC trade and travel between India and Pakistan remains suspended for the past two weeks, officials of the two countries are meeting at the ‘zero point’ in Uri area of Baramulla on Monday to “iron out differences” hampering the repair work of the Kaman bridge which facilitates the business and people-to-people contact between the two sides. 
A senior official told Greater Kashmir that the meeting, fixed on Monday evening, will be attended by officers from the civil administration and army from the Indian side.
The bridge repair work is halted because the Pakistani officials haven’t given their consent to the demand that there will be no ceasefire violation while the repair work is underway, the official said.
According to an order issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government, deputy commissioner Baramulla would chair the “zero meeting” at Kaman-Post from the Indian side. 
Apart from the bridge repair issue, India would also seek Pakistan’s approval for exporting Kashmiri rice to Pakistan-administered Kashmir, according to the ‘agenda’ of the meeting. 
The main agenda points of the meeting are: repair of Kaman bridge; crossing of vehicles across LoC by custodian; increase in number of vehicles from 35 to 70 from both sides in view of suspension of trade for the holy month of Ramdhan; quarterly traders’ zero-point meeting for reconciliation with counterparts; allowing food-grain for export and spices for import, and revival of various facilities at Kaman post.
Earlier, the cross LoC trade and bus service were suspended due to pending repair works of the bridge, according to officials. 
“Due to the sustained use of Kaman AmanSetu for cross-LoC trade for a long period, the bridge has suffered some damages which require immediate repairs. Inspection of the bridge was carried out by representatives of GREF (a border roads organisation wing) supported by army engineers on March 8, 2019, which indicates that the bridge needs urgent repairs and maintenance to ensure its longevity,” an official communication of the trade facilitation centreSalamabad, Uri, reads.
The repair work will require 10 to 15 days and the trade service will be suspended accordingly, the communication reads.
President, Kashmir chamber of commerce and industries (KKCI) Sheikh Ashiq said they have taken up the issue of prolonged closure of the intra-Kashmir trade and bus service with the concerned authorities. 
“We recently held a meeting with divisional commissioner Kashmir seeking his intervention in the matter. It was after this meeting that the decision to hold a zero-point meeting with Pakistani officials was taken,” he said, adding that the chamber has always given its unequivocal support for strengthening the cross-LoC trade and travel. 
Vice-president, cross-LoC traders’ association, Samiullah, said: “It is unfortunate that the government has halted this trade (from Kashmir side) for over two weeks, while it is going on smoothly from Jammu side”.
“Due to delay in carrying out the bridge repair works, we have incurred huge losses. We urge both Indian and Pakistani authorities to allow this trade to flourish,” he said. 
In October 2008, India and Pakistan announced commencement of the intra-Kashmir trade between divided parts of Kashmir as a “confidence building measure”.
The cross-LoC bus service was officially launched on April 7, 2005.


Description: MAR 25 2019  Description: BY AFP

Rizwan Tabassum—AFP
A frantic mother cradling her seven-month-old baby rushes towards the special pediatric ward in a desolate Pakistani town, his eyes are blank and he is smaller than most newborns. He is starving in a country that has no shortage of food, but which has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and where malnutrition is rife.
The infant weighs just 2.5 kilograms—the average for a healthy child of that age is almost three times that.
His case is not unique for the doctors at the Mithi Civil Hospital in hunger-stricken Sindh province where millions survive on less than $1 a day. Of the 150-250 patients who come in each day, roughly one fifth are suffering from malnutrition, Dr. Dilip Kumar, head of the pediatric department, tells AFP.
Inside the ward, nine other malnourished infants are crying inside glass incubators. A young mother, Nazeeran, clutches the hand of her toddler. “Her weight is dropping, even though we consulted many doctors,” the 25-year-old says.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a poverty and hunger watchdog, estimates around one in five of Pakistan’s more than 200 million people are malnourished. And yet, the nation is not short of food—in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is projected to export 500,000 tons of wheat from May 2018 until April 2019, and 7.4 million tons of rice in the same period.
Dawn, the English-language daily newspaper, even reported a potato glut earlier this month.
The issues, experts say, are socioeconomic—that is, just because food is available, does not mean people can access it. “There are four key pillars of food security in Pakistan: The first is availability, then accessibility, utilization and stability,” says Dr. Ambreen Fatima, senior research economist at the Applied Economic Research Center of the Karachi University.
In Tharparkar, where Mithi Civil Hospital is, all four are lacking, she explains, adding that in other parts of the country they are present only to varying degrees. “Pakistan is quite well off in wheat production,” comments Dr. Kaiser Bengali, a veteran economist, who has done field research on poverty and hunger in the country, but adds that much of it is sold for export.
This means ordinary people in the country may not have access to it, and if they do they may not have the resources to pay for it. “Affordability is the biggest challenge here in Pakistan,” he says.
Karachi is Pakistan’s financial capital, but Bengali says he has seen alarming examples of poverty and deprivation there. “In our surveys we came across the kids who had never eaten an apple, and when we offered him an apple he was reluctant to take the bite wondering whether it was an edible thing or not,” Bengali reveals. “In another case a family had never had eggs in their whole lives,” he adds.
A survey of the state-run Planning Division in 2017 found that 40 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in multi-dimensional poverty. That means they are not just short of money, but are also facing a shortage of basic needs, including health, clean water, and electricity, among other factors—all of which can impact their access to food.
“Poor physical infrastructure, particularly in the remote rural areas throughout Pakistan is also a limitation on access to food and influences market prices,” according to a recent statement from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “This is also linked to inadequate water and sanitation, education and health service delivery, which together with the lack of awareness of appropriate dietary intake contributes to greater food insecurity and malnutrition.”
Tharparkar district is frequently highlighted in Pakistan’s media because of its high rate of child deaths, with politicians blaming the situation on drought—but economists and physicians say that is not the sole explanation. “Causes of malnutrition are multiple pregnancies, young-aged marriage, iron deficiency in mothers, [lack] of breastfeeding, weak immunization, and early weaning,” Dr. Kumar insists.
Bearing large numbers of children from a young age takes its toll on women’s health, but also impacts the well-being of the fetus and ability to breastfeed a newborn.
In Pakistan, only 38 percent of babies are fed breast milk exclusively during their first six months in line with U.N. recommendations. This low figure is blamed on local traditions, the heavy workloads of mothers and powerful marketing by the milk industry. Many mothers are told to feed their newborns tea, herbs, which can stunt growth. Some are unnecessarily persuaded to use formula instead of breast milk by doctors. This can introduce health problems if the water use to make it is unclean, or if poor families scrimp on the amount of powder to create the drink.
Sindh’s high number of child deaths are the result of a vicious poverty cycle that begins with malnourished mothers, agrees Bengali. He adds: “An infant is not fed with wheat or solid food.”

Weekly cotton review: prices of cotton remain stable
•             NASEEM USMAN
•             MAR 25TH, 2019
•             KARACHI

The prices of cotton remained stable. The trading volume decreased in the local market due to the delivery of imported cotton to the big textile and spinning groups. The sowing of cotton started in lower Sindh. The concerned departments were active regarding increasing the production of cotton. Pakistani Cotton and Ginners Association were active for the recovery of billions of rupees of ginners blocked by millers.

In the local cotton market prices of cotton remained stable. Although the trading volume remained low due to the cautious buying of textile and spinning mills, ginners demanded higher prices of good quality cotton due to which millers are buying the commodity according to their needs. The delivery of imported cotton of many spinning and textile mills has started which is the reason of low trading volume.

Many ginners are facing problems due to low trading volumes. At present, traders are doing their business on borrowing while the ginners are waiting for the increase in the prices. Overall the trading volume is low. The new season will start in three to four months. Ginners have the stock of 1.05 million bales out of which only half are of good quality.

The prices of cotton in both Sindh and Punjab remained Rs 7000 to Rs 9000 per maund while the price of Seed cotton (Kapas/Phutti) is from Rs 3000 to Rs 3600 per 40Kgs in both Sindh and Punjab. Cotton in Balochistan is available at the rate of Rs 7800 to 8100 per maund while the ginning factories were almost closed in Balochistan.

The Karachi Cotton Association (KCA) spot rate committee decreased the spot rate by Rs 100 to Rs 8600 per maund. Karachi Cotton Brokers Forum said that a mixed trend was seen in the international market. According to experts, the US-China trade conflict has a negative impact on the world business. China is importing cotton from India due to this conflict. Due to import of cotton by China from India the prices of cotton remained stable in India which the prices of this commodity show an upward trend in the USA.

Moreover, due to the rains there is a delay in harvesting of wheat while according to the information received from Interior Sindh the sowing of cotton has partially started while the partial sowing season in Punjab is expected to begin next month.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown his resolve of increasing the production of cotton by 15 million bales due to which the relevant departments have started their efforts. Punjab Agriculture minister Malik Noman Ahmad Langrial while speaking at Agriculture House last Wednesday expressed his optimism about cotton output. In his statement Noman said that relevant departments should utilize all their resources to increase the cultivation land of cotton in order to increase the cotton production. He said that the federal government should announce the support price of cotton as early as possible and cotton should be bought through Trading Corporation of Pakistan so that the cotton farmers should get reasonable amount of their crop.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood said that China will import rice, sugar and cotton yarn from Pakistan of worth 1 billion dollars under Pakistan China Free Trade Agreement. The export of rice from Pakistan has already started. The Cotton Yarn Exporters said that China is importing yarn of 10, 16 and 21 count from Pakistan. It is hoped that China will import more cotton from Pakistan under PCFTA.

Earlier, Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association chairman Mian Mahmood Ahmad said that millers are not paying the outstanding amount to ginners; due to which ginners-millers relationship came under severe strains.

The PCGA has asked ginners to send the list of millers so that association should contact the millers. Mahmood said that ginners have sent the claim of Rs 700 million to the association. More ginners are in contact. It is expected that outstanding amount may increase. Some ginners and millers are in contact and talks are underway between them so they don't approach the PCGA.

Parthenium - the silent killer of Pakistan’s agricultural yield

Published: March 25, 2019
FAISALABAD: Invasive species are threatening biological diversity and globally pose a huge threat to economic activities, such as agriculture, development and tourism.
More than half of the world’s food comes from three crops – wheat, maize and rice. According to the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), it is estimated that these crops alone suffer yield losses of 16% due to invasive weeds, costing approximately $96 billion annually.
Research has revealed that there are about 480,000 invasive species in different ecosystems across the world. Each year, the damage caused by invasive species costs in excess of $1.4 trillion worldwide, representing almost 5% of the global economy.
Unfortunately, the geographic spread and impact of invasive species is growing rapidly due to climate change, tourism and trade. Africa has recently suffered the menace of one particularly damaging invasive species – the Fall Armyworm, which attacks maize and other crops.
With over 200 million people in Africa relying on maize as their staple crop, the high yield losses recorded have had a clear impact on food security.
A recent CABI evidence note stated that this year Ghana reported 26.6% and Zambia 35% yield losses. The recent arrival of Fall Armyworm in India and its predicted rapid spread across parts of Asia poses a risk to yields here too. Right now, in Pakistan we are being affected by an invasive species called Parthenium – a weed commonly known as ‘Gajar Booti’ and now recognised as a major threat with impact on human health, biodiversity, agriculture, livestock and food security.
Parthenium is native to South and Central America, but over decades it has spread to over 40 countries – including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, Swaziland and Ethiopia. It has achieved major weed status in all these countries.
Parthenium is almost 1-2-metre tall, branched plant emerging as a threat weed having potential to deter the germination of native flora and ability to displace existing weeds. It causes skin rashes, watery eyes, swelling, itching of membranes of mouth and nose, constant coughing, especially at night and respiratory problems have also been reported.
It was an important weed in Lahore, Sialkot and northern Punjab in the previous decade, but now it has invaded most of the canal-irrigated districts in the command areas of Ravi and Chenab rivers. Northeastern districts are more prone to this menace. However, with the exceptions of a few, the command areas of Jhelum and Indus rivers are still mainly free of this weed.
In recent years, it has spread all over Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) with variable degree of infestation in sugarcane, cotton, gardens, vegetables and other crops, especially of spring and summer.
General public remains unaware
However, somewhat surprisingly, the general public remains oblivious to its dangers. Nestled within its small white flowers, the Parthenium plant can look quite beautiful, especially in flower bouquets and decorations (a practice that is contributing to its countrywide seed dispersal).
Parthenium is an extremely prolific seed producer as it has the capacity to produce up to 25,000 seeds per plant in isolated cases. Moreover, given suitable moisture levels, seeds can germinate at any time of the year and can remain viable for a long time, surviving even under very harsh environmental conditions. Pakistan’s climate is suitable for Parthenium throughout the year – making the weed prolific.
Parthenium manipulates the ecology of fields, affects the yield of crops and invades forests through its aggressive nature and gigantic allelopathic potential. Allelopathic plants release chemical compounds from their roots into the soil, which suppress or even kill surrounding plants.
In addition, Parthenium is highly allergenic; its pollen can cause asthma, eye irritation, throat infections and eczema. In livestock, it causes mouth ulcers in animals that consume the weed, which can result in deteriorating milk quality and tainting of meat.
Invasive species disproportionately affect vulnerable communities in rural areas, especially in developing countries, which mainly depend on a healthy ecosystem, natural resources, agriculture, tourism and trade. For a country like Pakistan, with 60% of the economy dependent on agriculture, this issue is incredibly serious and requires serious action.
Presently, Parthenium is not only affecting crop fields and reducing yields, it is also invading green belts within towns and cities and outcompeting native fauna. However, for now at least, the problem is still within the bounds of control.
How to control the weed
Organisations like CABI have been active in working with Pakistan’s agriculture departments, reaching out to both rural and urban communities by organising workshops for farmers and conducting awareness campaigns. These activities provide information about the identification and management of Parthenium as well as knowledge on the dangers of this weed.
The aim is to change the perception of Parthenium and control the weed. Additionally, CABI has been researching options for the biological control of Parthenium using its natural enemies, without the need for herbicides.
The research is currently looking at a beetle, Zygogramma bicolorata, which feeds on the leaves of Parthenium as well as a range of other species. The beetle is already being used to control Parthenium in Australia, South Africa, Ethiopia and Tanzania and studies have revealed that Zygogramma is already present in northern Punjab, K-P and Kashmir.
Researchers from the University of Manchester have also collaborated with CABI using space technology to tackle Parthenium with remote sensing in Pakistan.
By monitoring Parthenium in crops using satellite imaging, the project aims to quantify the spread on a large scale, particularly in remote areas, in order to create evidence-based control strategies. The project works with local stakeholders including Comsats University, the National University of Sciences and Technology, Ayub Agricultural Research Institute, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Institute of Space Technology and agriculture extension and regional crop departments of Punjab and K-P.
Bringing together key decision-makers from various sectors, creates a more universal approach, increasing the likelihood of controlling other invasive species in future.
Researchers fear that Parthenium could have a similarly devastating impact in Pakistan as that of the Fall Armyworm in Africa and stress that government bodies must take appropriate initiatives to control this weed.
Instant initiatives must be taken to educate farmers and the general public on the methods of controlling Parthenium. With support from the government, CABI’s programme can facilitate better and sustainable management of invasive species, ultimately helping Pakistan prosper.
Tackling invasive species like Parthenium is critical for achieving widespread economic prosperity and combating poverty, therefore, governments must commit to reducing the economic impact of invasive species.
Abid Mahmood is the Director General Agriculture (Research), Ayub Agricultural Research Institute (AARI), Faisalabad whereas Muhammad Ashiq is the Assistant Agronomist, Plant Physiology Section, Agronomic Research Institute, AARI
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2019.

Nowruz celebrations bring together people from diverse cultures, nationalities Pakistan will continue to strive for peace in region: Arif Alvi


Zubair Qureshi
Some call it Nauruz, some Nowruz or Nowroz but all celebrate it! Nowruz marks the first day of the first month of the Iranian calendar and usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day. Serena Hotel’s management in consultation with the embassies of Central Asian countries—Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan,—Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran thought it befitting to celebrate the day on Sunday, March 24.
And what a wise decision it turned out to be! Being an off-day one could see guests coming at a their convenience along with families and friends taking interest in the traditional items as well as food put on display at the stall of the participating country. Focus of everyone’s attention was the kind of rice cooked at various stalls of the central Asian countries.
Besides, a variety of food stuff was also made available on these stalls. The Central Asian pilaf (pullao) available almost on all stalls of Central Asian states became a must-eat dish. The way each central Asian nation cooked rice with mutton or beef could be sensed and tasted the moment one gets closer to the pavilion of a particular country. Though it is known and called by different names, Pullao is the common treat in almost all the Central Asian countries as well as Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.
Likewise, artwork, traditional caps and coats and other garments put on display by each embassy also attracted huge attention of the visitors.
Turkish Shawarma, Kazakh pullao, Uzbek sweets and Azerbaijan ‘lassi’ were some of the mouthwatering items the visitors took keen interest in.
Iran and Afghanistan stalls too had a lot to offer to visitors. The UN too established a stall on the venue. International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
President Arif Aliv was the chief guest at the Nowruz festivities. In his address, he congratulated the member countries for hosting such an impressive event.
President said Pakistan was a threshold of peace and took pride in its diverse cultures and communities. Having fought and won war on terror, Pakistan knows the value of peace better than any other power of the region, said Dr Arif Alvi and assured the guests the country would continue to strive for peace and prosperity of the whole region.
The President highly appreciated the cultural performances of the children of the different countries. “It is always a pleasure to see children clad in beautiful dresses of their respective countries and presenting some extra ordinary cultural performance adding such performances in fact add true color to Nowruz festivities” said the president.
CEO Serena Hotels South and Central Asia, Aziz Boolani also spoke on the occasion and thanked the guests for taking part in this event in large numbers.
President Dr Arif Alvi was presented some traditional item at each embassy’s stall he visited like Shapan, a Kazakh coat by Ambassador Barlybay Sadykov; a basket of traditional food items eggs and Azerbaijani cake by Azerbaijan ambassador Ali Alizada and a Kyrgyz hat by Kyrgyzstan ambassador Erik Beishembiev, etc.

Bulog fails to reach target to absorb farmers' rice

The Jakarta Post
Palembang   /   Mon, March 25, 2019   /   09:19 am
Description: Bulog fails to reach target to absorb farmers' riceA rice field in Plaosan village, Klaten regency, Central Java. (JP/Maksum Nur Fauzan)
The South Sumatra chapter of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) is facing difficulties in reaching its rice absorption target of 70,000 tons this year despite harvest season.
The agency had only been able to absorb 180 tons of rice as of early March due to the rising price of rice at the farmers’ level, also known as the “farm gate price”, said the chapter head, M. Yusuf Salahuddin, in Palembang, South Sumatra, recently.
Raw rice, which is not qualified yet as medium or premiumquality rice, is sold at above Rp 8,300 (58 US cents) per kilogram on average.
“The low absorption is because farmers sell their rice at a higher price than the regulated farm gate price of Rp 7,300, with the flexibility reaching Rp 8,030 at maximum [lower than the actual farm gate price of Rp 8,300],” he said.
He said Bulog had purchased the 180 tons of rice based on the commercial price as it had to follow regulations on rice prices.
Bulog has earmarked Rp 10 trillion for rice purchases nationwide this year.
In terms of logistics, Yusuf ensured that Bulog’s warehouse in South Sumatra would be able to store more rice, saying that currently it housed 27,500 tons of rice, including the stock from last year. Aside from local rice absorption, some of the stock also came from East Java, he said.
The existing stock is expected to fulfill people’s needs for the next seven months.
The stock will also be distributed through several programs, such as the social assistance fund (Bansos), rice assistance (Rastra) and direct market operations through traditional markets.
“We have distributed 4,000 tons of rice through the Bansos and Rastra programs in 2019 so far. We will continue to distribute our stock,” Yusuf said. (bbn)